Scrabble Go investigated by ASA after claims in-game ads “trivialised and condoned sexual assault”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has investigated complaints regarding adverts that appeared in the free-to-play Scrabble Go app.

According to complainants, the ads in question made light of sexual assault, even going so far as to actively encourage it.

The first ad to be reported was for a mobile game app from OneSoft Studio named Naughty Puzzle: Tricky Test. It showed an animated woman wearing what appeared to be short shorts and a vest top struggling to free herself from a broken fence.

Meanwhile, a man was depicted in the foreground, with the user then presented with the option to “HELP” the woman (shown by a picture of the broken fence) or “SLAP” the woman. For this option, the icon on display was of a “cropped close-up of the woman’s buttocks with superimposed red handprints”.

Following this interaction, the woman in the ad was shown to be crying and still unable to free herself from the fence. Then, more options came up in the ad. One was “JUTSU” (the mystical arts a ninja will utilise in battle) with an icon showing “hands forming a gesture with pressed palms, crossed thumbs, and pointed index and middle fingers”. The second option here was simply “UNDRESS” with an image of ladies underwear alongside it.

According to the ASA, the second ad that it received complaints about was for a mobile game app called Naughty Quiz: Brain Out Puzzle (same studio). The content of this ad was in a similar vein to the advert for Naughty Puzzle: Tricky Test.

Following an investigation by the ASA, Scrabble Go’s developer Scopely informed the company that it had blocked the adverts from appearing on its app again.

Meanwhile, the ASA has told OneSoft Studio it has “to ensure that [its] ads were socially responsible and did not cause serious or widespread offence, including by trivialising, condoning or encouraging sexual violence, or including a harmful gender stereotype by objectifying and sexualising women.”

In addition to this, the ASA has referred the matter to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) compliance team.

Scrabble Go first released in 2020, after an earlier Scrabble mobile app made by EA closed down. Scrabble Go was swiftly met with countless complaints on its launch, with many lamenting Scopely’s decision to go down the route of vivid colours, treasure-style rewards and in-app purchases.

In fact, an online petition to “Keep EA Scrabble alive” was formed, with one signatory telling BBC News at the time they “don’t want jewels, cartoons, or potential dates. I want to play Scrabble against my friends and family. That’s it. Nothing else.”